AUSTIN, Texas (Feb. 8, 2017) – A bill that would effectively prohibit so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with enforcement of some federal immigration laws passed the Texas Senate today.

Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) filed Senate Bill 4 (SB4) along with 19 cosponsors. The legislation would broadly prohibit local government entities from discouraging the enforcement of federal immigration law.

a)  A local entity or campus police department shall not:

(1)  adopt, enforce, or endorse a policy under which the entity or department prohibits or discourages the enforcement of immigration laws; or

(2)  by consistent actions prohibit or discourage the enforcement of immigration laws.

A local government entity found in violation of the proposed law would be subject to the loss of state grant funds. Hospitals would be exempt from the requirements.

SB4 would, in-essence, require state and local law enforcement officers to do the job of federal immigration agents for the federal government. It also adds a penalty for refusing to do so. From the Austin American-Statesman:

SB 4 would create a new crime — failure to follow regulations that require police and sheriff’s departments to participate in federal immigration enforcement.

The Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum punishment of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine, could be assessed against police chiefs, sheriffs, city and county officials and anyone in a position of authority who block law officers from asking detainees about their immigration status or fail to honor detention requests from federal immigration authorities.

SB4 passed the Senate by a party-line 20-10 vote.


Some U.S. cities, and the state of California, have refused to participate in a narrow segment of federal immigration enforcement. In all of these situations, government and law enforcement agencies in these cities don’t actively stop ICE from enforcing immigration laws. However, in a narrow sense, they simply don’t provide any support or assistance to federal agents. These cities leave it to the federal government to enforce federal law.

Non-cooperation with federal enforcement rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states or their political subdivisions to help implement or enforce any federal act or regulatory program.

It would appear that Pres. Trump recognizes this as well. In his Jan. 25 Executive Order on “sanctuary jurisdictions,” he acknowledges that his policy of having state and local agents act as interior federal immigration enforcement will be done “with the consent of State or local officials.”

SB4 represents a constitutional way to force cities to help enforce immigration laws. The federal government cannot do it do it. But if a state decides it wants to spend its time, money and resources assisting the federal government, they can certainly make that choice.


SB4 will now move to the House for further consideration.

Mike Maharrey

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